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Montgomery County Roads – A Hazard to Pedestrians

Wednesday, September 26th, 2018 By

If you drive regularly in the Montgomery County area, it is probably not surprising that local roads can be hazardous. There’s even evidence that Maryland roads and drivers can be more dangerous than average.

Data from D.C. Department of Motor Vehicles indicates that Maryland’s drivers rack up more traffic and parking citations than both D.C. and Virginia drivers and also owe more in fines than D.C. and VA drivers combined.  A study released by WalletHub in January rated Maryland as the third-worst state to drive in based on several different measurements.

Rather than looking at a long list of statewide figures, zeroing in on a single year in a single county presents a more focused local picture. We examined location data for motor vehicle accidents in Montgomery County in 2015 and found that there were 58 pedestrian incidents. Of those 58 incidents, two resulted in fatalities; one on Frederick Road in Germantown and one on River Road in Kenwood. After mapping the location, it then became apparent that the most active area for pedestrian-involved motor vehicle accidents was the Bethesda-Silver Spring area, with a total of 24 incidents (including the River Road fatality).

Over the course of 2015, 58 accidents convert to a pedestrian-involved accident occurring in Montgomery County 6.2 days, or slightly more than one accident a week. Furthermore, 3.44% of those pedestrian-involved incidents resulted in fatalities.

Where Do Pedestrian Accidents Occur?

More extensive data, including data that dates back to January 2012, and a map displaying pedestrian-related traffic incidents, paints an even more disturbing picture. When additional years of data are plotted on a map of Montgomery County, the 2015 clusters get larger, additional clusters appear, and more roads where accidents occurred are visible.

As a result of expanding the data, dozens of additional pedestrian-related traffic incidents are shown in the Bethesda and Silver Spring areas. Also, additional clusters appear in Gaithersburg and Montgomery Village, Germantown, North Potomac, Rockville, Glenmont, and Wheaton. Some of these clusters even connect along heavily-traveled roads like Viers Mill, Georgia Avenue, Rockville Pike, Colesville Road, and Frederick Road, meaning that the roads themselves (not just specific locations or intersections) are danger zones for pedestrians.

In late 2017, the Baltimore Sun reported that according to a survey of Maryland State Police data, Georgia Avenue in Montgomery County was one of the most dangerous roads for pedestrians in the entire state. The study found these four major clusters of pedestrian accidents in a single eight-mile section of the road: Aspen Hill (near the Connecticut Avenue intersection), Wheaton, south of Wheaton (near August Drive) and in downtown Silver Spring.  The data from 2015-2017 conclude that those four locales accounted for 117 incidents, with 61 people seriously injured and two deaths.

“Incident” doesn’t always mean “Injury”

Keep in mind that these traffic incidents did not always involve a call to the ambulance. In many cases, a pedestrian was simply present and involved. The 4700 block of Bradley Boulevard in Bethesda is a good example.

In recent years, one specific location that requires the driver to yield for pedestrians waiting to use the crosswalk was the site of almost 200 citations. That said, if any pedestrian had attempted to cross Bradley Boulevard while not paying attention, an accident resulting in injury certainly could have happened.

Any Help From Maryland State or Local Governments?

Maryland does have a system in place for identifying and addressing locally-identified road construction projects. This includes pedestrian-related projects like sidewalk installation, placement of roadside fencing or railings, and restriping crosswalks and bicycle lanes. Counties are invited to send an annual list of priority road projects in writing to the Maryland Department of Transportation. The Governor and state legislature then approve or deny funding on an item-by-item basis.

Interestingly enough, many counties, including Montgomery County, put road congestion-related projects at or near the top of their lists but placed pedestrian-related projects at or near the bottom of their lists. Also, while Montgomery County did include improving Georgia Avenue pedestrian safety on its most recent list submitted to MDOT, they placed the notion near the bottom of the list.

While the vast majority of pedestrian-related incidents happen on major roads and thoroughfares, these incidents do occur on private property on residential streets. Some citizens groups have sought to lower the speed limits in residential areas on suburban county roads, only to find that (with few exceptions) Maryland state law prevents counties or municipalities from reducing speed limits below 25 MPH. In 2017, the Montgomery County delegation sponsored legislation in the Maryland House of Delegates to reduce that limit to 20 MPH. The legislation had passed in the House but didn’t pass out of any Senate committees for a full vote before the session ended.

In short, despite the potential danger to pedestrians in some areas of Montgomery County, it doesn’t seem likely that any solution is coming any time soon.  That means that your best protection from traffic as a pedestrian is your own alertness, attention, and caution.

Pedestrian Accident Attorneys

If you’ve been the victim of a pedestrian accident or other personal injury in Montgomery County you have means for compensation. Contact the attorneys at DuBoff & Associated, Charteded to discuss how we can help you receive compensation for injuries, medical bills, and lost wages.

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